Hopefully, you read last week’s blog about underlay stitches, and how important they are to embroidery.  If not, here are the basic ideas that we will carry on to this week’s blog.

Underlay stitches are very important – they are the building blocks to great embroidery.  Underlay stitches provide the foundation for your stitches – whether they are satin stitches, lettering or simple fill stitches, you need to have a solid foundation no matter what you are stitching.    If you can think in terms of building, you don’t have to be a contractor or an engineer to understand that if you are building a house, and you don’t have a solid and strong foundation for your house, you are going to end up with issues – if the base isn’t strong, the rest of the house isn’t strong, and the weight of the house isn’t going to sit properly, and it may even become crooked or uneven.  Same goes with embroidery – if you don’t use the correct stabilizer to keep everything strong and steady, hoop everything properly AND use the correct foundation or underlay stitches, you could end up with issues.

We went over satin stitches, specifically lettering and how Hatch sets you up with the correct underlay when you are using the built-in fonts or ESA fonts and this week we are going to talk about filled objects, with a tatami (aka fill) stitch.  Again, having the right kind of underlay is necessary to have some great embroidery when you are done.   Adding underlay to your filled objects will, of course, add more stitches to your final design, but they are absolutely necessary and should not be considered any kind of an addition (or subtraction) to your final stitch count.  It’s a package deal:  if you want a fill stitch, you need to have an underlay stitch to go with it.


There are a few underlay types to pick from – and what you pick will depend on the size, fabric, and design that you are stitching.  In Hatch, you have 3 choices:  edge run, zig-zag or tatami fill stitch, and you can pick 1 or 2 of these for your object.  For example, if you are stitching on thick and sturdy Denim, you don’t need to use a full underlay, you can pick the edge and the zig-zag because the sturdy and thick denim fabric will keep its shape and provide a partial foundation for your stitches.   For each option, you should have some choices so you can get your underlay exactly right.  You can change the stitch length or the stitch spacing for each type of underlay.


Here is what the options look like in Hatch- if you don’t have Hatch yet, yours will probably have similar options for edge underlay, and all of the choices that you have.

edge underlay

It seems like a lot of choices, but generally, you can leave the underlay on default for the stitch length and stitch spacing.  I don’t often bother to change them, they are pretty good for average use.  If I am doing a special technique or want a different look, these options are always there which is good to know!  The edge underlay is the same as the satin stitches, it goes along the edge of the object, just in a little bit from where the topstitching will end up.  This provides a great foundation for the top stitches and will help give you a nice, crisp edge to the object.  If you want to change the position of the edge underlay, you can change the margin for the edge underlay from normal to wide (further away from the edge) to narrow (closer to the edge).    The picture below has the edge underlay in the normal default position, and it is usually right on target.




The next option for underlay is called zig-zag underlay, and it does exactly what the name says:  it zigs from one side of the object and zags right over to the opposition side.   This underlay is different from the edge underlay as it provides more “foundation support”.  The edge underlay goes around the edge of the object, basically outlining it, while the zig-zag underlay will go back and forth, providing a solid base to the entire object, big or small.   You can change the stitch length or the stitch spacing on this underlay as well – if you need a stronger foundation you can make the stitches spaced a bit closer together, or you can switch to the tatami underlay for full coverage.

HINT:  if you can’t see your underlay, you need to take the True Vue or 3D view off so you can see the stitches.


The last underlay is called Tatami Underlay, although if you don’t have Hatch it is going to be called something else such as full underlay.  While this is similar to the edge underlay, the tatami or full underlay is a little more intense and has more stitching, therefore it provides a stronger foundation or base for your stitches.  Here is a comparison of the two side by side – I quickly outlined the underlay paths, just in case they were hard to see:

importance of underlay


You can see that there is a difference between the two types and that the tatami or full underlay has more stitches going on and quite a bit more coverage, so picking the type of underlay would depend on what you are stitching, the size and the type of fabric – then you can figure out how much of a foundation you require.

HINT:  if you have Hatch, you don’t need to figure anything out – Hatch has an awesome setting called “auto fabric”!  All you have to do is pick the type of fabric (or similar fabric) that you want to use, and Hatch will set up the underlay for you.

EXCEPTIONS:  Oh boy!  Of course, with anything and everything, there are exceptions! The Rule of Underlay has many exceptions.  One exception is light and airy designs – if you are making your top stitches light and airy (with spaces between the lines of stitching) you really don’t want any underlay to mess up your lines and add density – it won’t be light and airy anymore! Other special techniques don’t require underlay, but there are too many to go through here, so I am going to stick to the main ones.

The second exception worth noting is layering.  You CAN layer embroidery without any issues, and it can often give a nice effect.  However, if you are layering more than say 2 layers of fill stitch, you are going to create some bulletproof embroidery and you probably need to find a better way to complete your design!  Sometimes you need to layer lettering over the fill stitches – that is what I mean by layering.  Cutting a hole is not always the right answer, depending on the size of the objects.  Beleive it or not, sometimes cutting a hole adds to the overall stitch count!  Here is how you should do layering of regular fill stitch objects, if necessary.  The first layer stitches first, and you need to add underlay stitches as normal.  The second layer, however, already has foundation stitches which is the first layer that is already stitched!  That first layer can act as a base for the second layer, so you don’t need to add underlay to the second layer.  You don’t need to have 4 total layers of stitching – 1 underlay 1 stitching + 2 underlay and 2 stitching (1 and 2 being the layers) you need 1 underlay 1 stitching + 2 stitching – making 3 layers instead of 4.  Whew, hopefully that made sense!  The first layer is already a great foundation, and you can happily stitch the second layer without any underlay.

Hopefully, everyone understands the importance of underlay on each and every object that you create in embroidery.  Stop worrying about stitch counts, or trying to reduce your stitch counts, and concentrate on creating embroidery with a solid foundation!  If you do it right, your embroidery will stand out from the crowd!

Until next time,

Happy Digitizing,




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